If you’ve seen me on any podcasts lately, then you’ve heard me talk about how I’ve been in this industry a long fucking time.
When I first got into making sites, Made For AdSense (MFA) sites were all the rage.
And the big gurus at the time were two dudes known as Shoemoney and John Chow.
There was also a really successful anonymous guy going by grizzlybrears, or something like that, advocating for making really ugly MFA sites on Blogspot.
So, that’s exactly what I started doing.
And for some dumb fucking reason I chose personal finance as my topic for my shitty Blogspot site.
My First Online Monies
As you might expect, AdSense is the source of the very first cent that I made online.
And yup, it was from that first Blogspot site.
But I never made any life changing money from that BlogSpot.
At one point, I got into PayPerPost (now called Izea), which was really the original sponsored post service.
I made some good side hustle money from PayPerPost, with $500 being the most I ever got paid for a single post.
Back then, you got paid by PayPerPost to write blog posts for brands and the amount you earned was based on your site’s Page Rank (RIP).
That was when I first learned about link building and how you could use it to manipulate your site’s authority.
But I was scared to do too much of that, or to get too excited by AdSense, because there were loads of people getting their AdSense accounts closed and Google was keeping all the monies when that happened. (I think there ended up being a lawsuit about this at some point.)
So, I never really made much more than a few hundred dollars a month from AdSense back then.
I ended up creating several Blogspots in various niches and doing sponsored posts from PayPerPost that brought in a few hundred dollars each month as well.
My First $1000+ Month Site
Somehow, and I wish I could remember how, I got into thinking about downloadables as an easier way to make money than AdSense.
And that is when I started making pretty good money (mid-2007), all while still working a shitty day job. (I inadvertently put the wrong year here initially)
What was I selling?
Mostly editable templates – both Word and Excel.
I tried selling:
- Travel ‘secrets’ for cheaper hotels, etc (a PDF)
- Budget spreadsheets
- Car bill of sale templates
- Paycheck stub templates
- Get out of work excuses ebook
- Sick note templates
Wanna guess which one of those was the big winner?
And I’m talking about totally dwarfing all the others.
It was the fake paycheck stubs by a mile.
Now, I need to disclose that at the time, I had no idea that this was kinda, sorta, not exactly legal.
I mean, I knew that people could use them for nefarious purposes, so I tried to pitch them as novelty items or ideal for self-employed people.
Honestly, I thought it was one of those legal gray areas at the time, and I immediately stopped selling them once I discovered how illegal it truly was, and likely still is – so don’t do this!
Anyways, the best part of this success is that it all started with a .info domain.
I first started with fakepaycheckstub.info (not in the Wayback Machine, I checked) and a crude html site built in Dreamweaver.
This site started bring in the money almost immediately and settled around $800 monthly – almost pure profit.
It was the easiest money I’d ever made.
I literally created the template one time and had it delivered to buyers via a third-party. So, I did nothing and the money rolled in.
It wasn’t long before I started seeing some competition in the SERPs, so I did four things –
- created two more sites like the first one
- started using AdWords to see if I could make more money
- raised the price of the downloadable template
- worked on my sales page copy
In addition to being an easy money maker, this gave me a lot of experience working on my copywriting skills and playing around with paid traffic.
Since this was before things like WordPress and drag-and-drop page builders, I also had to teach myself a lot about html and web site design.
These are all skills that I still use today.
So, after creating more sites in the same niche and fine tuning my sales page and offering, I started seeing even more success.
While my paid traffic adventures never got me a CPC better than $0.23/click, I was still raking in the cash.
I started out spending $150/month on ads, but some months I’d double that.
Honestly, I cannot believe that Google let me run ads for fake paycheck stubs for almost three years – no wonder I had no idea that it was illegal!
It was around this time that one of my sites in this niche really started taking off, so it became my primary focus.
No, it wasn’t that .info domain. You can actually see it in the Wayback Machine.
I think the most I ever made from this site in a single month was $1,800 and that was when my ad spend was $300 for the month.
The lowest was around $700 monthly, not counting the first couple of months – though it started earning almost immediately.
On average, the income from this site (and the other two similar ones I had created) brought in between $800 and $1,200 in pure profit each month.
I wish I’d thought to sell the sites to my competitors, but honestly I was worried about the whole thing once I learned that it was not legal.
Luckily, I got into affiliate sites in the midst of this site bringing in the money, so when I shut this site down I already had other sites earning as well.
And that’s the mildly embarrassing story of my first big success in this industry.
You never know what will pop in the SERPs – it just might be a dumb, simple idea that brings in loads of cash.
Hey, I’m Shawna. I make a living working from my laptop in places like London, Sydney, Dubai, Rome, Oslo, Bangkok, Las Vegas, Barcelona, and Amsterdam. I share how I do some of that on this website.